PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande said a British parliamentary vote against taking military action in Syria would not affect France’s will to act to punish Bashar al-Assad’s government for an apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians.
Hollande told the daily Le Monde in an interview that he still supported taking “firm” punitive action over an attack he said had caused “irreparable” harm to the Syrian people and said he would work closely with France’s allies.
Asked if France could take action without Britain, Hollande replied: “Yes. Each country is sovereign to participate or not in an operation. That is valid for Britain as it is for France.”
A British parliamentary defeat on Thursday of a government motion on Syria has dealt a setback to U.S.-led efforts to punish Damascus for last week’s poison gas attack.
Hollande is not constrained by the need for parliamentary approval of any move to intervene in Syria and could act, if he chose, before a parliamentary debate on the issue set for Wednesday.
Hollande told Le Monde that he would not take any decision to act unless the conditions were there to justify that.
“All the options are on the table. France wants action that is in proportion and firm against the Damascus regime,” he said.
“There are few countries that have the capacity to inflict a sanction by the appropriate means. France is one of them. We are ready. We will decide our position in close liaison with our allies.”
Reporting by Julien Ponthus, Catherine Bremer and Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Janet Lawrence